Graffiti: Olympia reports a 7 percent decrease in tagging

Still, nearly 4,700 tags were reported in the past 12 months


Editor’s Note:  Many of the business owners interviewed wished to remain anonymous due to fears of retaliation from taggers.  Also, some of the graffiti in the photographs has been cleaned up; however, most has not.

Not long ago someone neatly stenciled the following: “This is not the free wall.  Do not paint anywhere on this wall.  It is vandalism.”

Across the alley from the stenciled request to not paint anything on a wall is the Capitol Theater Free Wall where anyone can paint anything they want to.

But the stenciler’s request went unheeded, and the Free Wall was ignored.  In short order, the following graffiti appeared where it was not supposed to be: “Vandalism is fun tho….”

This bit of irony seems to underscore the attitude that some taggers have toward private property.
This bit of irony seems to underscore the attitude that some taggers have toward private property.

For clarity, graffiti/tagging involves the deliberate use of writings, drawings or spraying of paints) on a wall or other surface in a public place, and it appears on the sides of many buildings in Olympia’s downtown area.

Graffiti is listed and defined under the Olympia Municipal Code (OMC) chapter on Offenses Against Property, Chapter 9.40.095.  It is a gross misdemeanor punishable as described in the OMC 9.64.010.

“It’s crazy, and it’s not funny,” said one business owner who asked not to be identified for fear that his property would be vandalized again. 

“We paint over the graffiti; someone comes back and sprays whatever they want; it never seems to end.”  The owner also said that his business has been broken into one three occasions.

Some of the aerosol paint-created vandalism appears to be abstract spraying on a store window or door.  But in other instances, it appears to be deliberate, almost targeted, on the same buildings.

“Who would want to come down here to shop? The area looks like crap,” one passer-by said to this reporter.  “I can remember when the downtown area didn’t have all of this on storefronts, mailboxes and even windows.”

Eric Blue of Diversified Coatings removes graffiti from a downtown building.
Eric Blue of Diversified Coatings removes graffiti from a downtown building.
Not too far away Eric Blue, the owner of Diversified Coatings, used a pressure washer to take a long, loping teal-colored streak off a brick wall.

“There’s been an increase in the amount of this kind of vandalism in Olympia,” he began, “and it’s not done by homeless people – it is done by scoundrels.”

He added that some of the malicious painting is done with fire extinguishers. 

“They take an extinguisher, unscrew the top, fill it with paint, pressurize it and spray,” Blue explained.  “The scoundrels who do this are a plague on our community; they make it look bad.”

When one business owner who asked to remain anonymous was asked what she would do about the graffiti on one of her outside walls, she replied “The city’s Clean Team is a very big help.”

When it comes to the removal of graffiti, the Clean Team (CT) partners with the Olympia Downtown Alliance (ODA) to provide graffiti removal services to all downtown businesses, as long as the graffiti is within arm’s reach.  Anything higher than that, the ODA is responsible for.

“Property owners must sign a waiver giving the City permission to remove graffiti from private property,” explained Kellie Braseth, the city’s Strategic Communications Director.  “Once a signed waiver is submitted to the Clean Team Supervisor, the address is added to the Clean Team’s work plan.”

She added that the CT not only removes graffiti from front-facing buildings, alleys, meters, utility cabinets and sidewalks, but it also removes trash, bio-hazard waste, flyers and stickers, and leaf and vegetation removal, to name of few of its duties.

“Graffiti removal is part of CT’s daily routines; however, the removal is weather dependent and can only be done on dry days,” added Braseth.

She explained that the CT uses the Collector App to gather information on the types of calls it responds to.  Based on the data collected on calls for the removal of graffiti, there has been a seven percent decrease when comparing May 2022 through April 2023 (5,040 tags) to May 2023 to April 2024 (4,686 tags). 

“Graffiti comes from a variety of sources for a variety of reasons,” Braseth pointed out.  “And to be clear, the city has absolutely no reason to believe that those living unhoused are responsible for any significant portions of the graffiti in the community.”

She concluded by explaining that businesses are encouraged to fight paint with paint through the creation of murals on walls.

“We also encourage neighborhoods to start a Block Watch to prevent graffiti and crime in general, because a Block Watch fights the isolation that crime feeds on.”

For more information on how to start a Block Watch, visit

For more information on how to contact the Clean Team, call or email the following:

Clean Team Operations Supervisor: Josh Davis, or 360.999.0557

Submit A Request: Email or call/text 360.522.3850

Hours of operation: 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., 7 days a week, except holidays


6 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • pheong

    First: despite what is reported by whatever entity within the city, anyone who drives around Olympia and environs can see that there is only an increase in tagging and wanton vandalism.

    Second: case in point; there was a tagger and glass etcher who went by the tag Menes, get it, menace, hilarious. Marco somebody who now owns and operates Lit Fuse, a tattoo parlour. At the old taxi stand just west of his shop was opening an herbalist/acupuncture/etc. After being open for a month or so, snot-nose (Marco) stopped by and complained that they were making the area look bad because they had yet to hand their business sign or decorate the windows with it.

    This coming from a long-time destructive vandal.

    Many of these taggers are bored kids with plenty of money for fancy cameras to record their activities, not to mention the cost of tens of cans of spray paint.

    After finally identifying one little **** who would tag 'daybreak' and having cost him a $1000 fine, he whined that his parents wouldn't help him pay it and asked him why he was still acting so childishly being in his 20's

    Break their index fingers. Next found offence, chop them off, one bone per new offence.

    Like dogs pissing on trees.

    Monday, May 13 Report this

  • Somney

    I would like to see people who get caught vandalizing have to do community service. Fines are one thing, but if a person graffitis property then need to be required to cover up and clean up the community as part of a community work crew.

    Tuesday, May 14 Report this

  • Snevets

    Spray paint should be locked behind doors just like lighters, sudafed, razors, etc.

    Where exactly are they getting fire extinguishers??

    Tuesday, May 14 Report this

  • Mugwump

    Vandals vandalize because they think it's "cool", because they've been trained to believe graffiti is "art" or because they want people to see their "tag". Instead, it is a common anti-social property crime perpetrated by careless, immature sociopaths with no regard to the property of others. One apt punishment might be to allow an offended party to vandalize the home or other property of someone convicted of their property. An eye for an eye. Permissiveness doesn't deter sociopaths.

    Tuesday, May 14 Report this

  • YurmaZahow

    I have spent over $300 on paint,

    $150 on barbed wire, and another

    grand on fencing. Now I only have

    to cover up graffiti every couple

    months or so. Their entitlement

    attitude is annoying. I am going to

    keep adding barbed wire until its

    too hard for them to even get on

    to the property. For those that are

    actually educated, I leave my own

    message in contrasting paint:

    "Vandali Ite Domum ad Meretricias


    Tuesday, May 14 Report this

  • Scott_Tompkins

    My perception is that there has been an increase in this vandalism lately. Let's call these taggers what they are: criminals.

    Do better, City of Olympia. I can say that my property taxes have increased 20.2% since we moved here in 2022. How about we start with removing the Creampie tag that greets visitors as they get off I5 on their way to the state Capitol?

    Wednesday, May 15 Report this